On behalf of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), which is drawn from the major Palestinian political and social forces and tasked to promote the Palestinian Unified Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, we would like to express our deep concern regarding the statement by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman published in the Peruvian El Comercio which read “the Israeli minister of Infrastructure (Benjamin Ben Eliezer [sic]) will be visiting Ecuador soon.”[i]
We are also deeply concerned about the possibility that an arms deal with Israel be finalized during the visit.
Your country”s exemplary new constitution defines Ecuador as a territory of peace and guarantees its inhabitants the right to a culture of peace. It is a symbol of the struggle for self-determination of the indigenous people in the Andes and around the globe and is in opposition to colonialism and racism. The invitation of Israeli ministers to your country, however, gives legitimacy to a government that continues the decades-old policies of ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinian people, practices racial discrimination against them,and continues to occupy and colonize their lands in open defiance of international law and human rights principles.
The current government of Israel is accelerating the construction of the Wall and the settlements and maintains the illegal, barbaric siege on Gaza which UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights, Prof. Richard Falk, called a”prelude to genocide”. Its coalition partners have proposed laws to prohibit the commemoration of the expulsion of the majority of the Palestinian people from their homeland, and it has decided to remove indigenous Arabic names from streets and towns in order to wipe our existence out of history. Only days ago,the Knesset approved a land reform that effectively excludes the indigenous Palestinians from land rights[ii], pre-empting the UN-sanctioned right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes of origin[iii].
We are further concerned that the Israeli interest in a visit to Ecuador may be aimed at promoting the finalization of the two, possibly not-yet signed contracts, for Israeli unmanned aircraft vehicles (drones). According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Ecuador has readied two contracts with the Israeli Aerospace Industries for six drones in 2008, apparently still pending signature[iv].
Drones, in addition to their use for scouting and tracking targets, were used by Israel in some of the more horrific war crimes against defenceless civilians during the 2006 war on Lebanon and the 2008-9 war of aggression against Gaza, such as the January 3 attack which killed 15 Palestinians and injured 30[v].Drones are further employed by the Israeli occupation army for extrajudicial killings.
We highly appreciate the principled positions on Palestine that Ecuador has taken under your presidency. We particularly appreciate your principled stance at the United Nations during the Israeli assault on Gaza in January2009. While Ecuador promotes through its Ombudsman an Advisory and Ethics Tribunal on Palestine and Bolivia seeks regional allies to bring Israel before the International Criminal Court, buying drones from Israel seems politically contradictory and morally unacceptable. Furthermore, this would be at odds with the constitutional obligation of Ecuador to “promote a new trade and investment system among the states that supports justice and solidarity […].”[vi]
The profits from the exports of the Israeli military industry are a core part in the economic sustainability of the occupation regime. Its weapons are tested and developed in the oppression and killings of the Palestinian people.
Finally, we fear that Israeli diplomatic activity in Latin America may have negative effects on regional integration and would hinder the trends of greater South-South cooperation. After Venezuela and Bolivia cut diplomatic ties with Israel, the Israeli government has become increasingly concerned about South American solidarity with Palestine and is attempting to undercut a possible spilling over of this trend into decisions of other governments. During his recent trip to the region, Israeli Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, clearly fomented opposition to Venezuela, a founding member of the ALBA, and attacked the links between Latin America and the Middle Eastern energy producing countries. Within the framework of a vision of a new world order, based on global justice and international relations of solidarity and equality, we can only deplore these attempts and hope that Ecuador will not open its doors further to such agitation within and between the states of Latin America.
We hope instead that Ecuador will follow the call made by H. E. Father Miguel D´Escoto Brockmann, President of the General Assembly of the United Nations, regarding Israel:
“Twenty years ago we played a major role when following civil society and decided it was necessary to apply sanctions to put a nonviolent pressure against South Africa. Today we shall follow the example of a new generation of our civil society that is calling to a similar non violent campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions to put pressure on Israel.”[vii]
We believe that Ecuador can play an important role in promoting the campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) to develop effective mechanisms to pressure Israel to comply with its obligations under international law, as was done against the apartheid regime in South Africa.
We sincerely hope that Ecuador will uphold its ethical message of peace and justice and its commitments to international law by declining to host representatives of the Israeli government and, most crucially, refuse to enter into arms deals with Israel.
Secretariat, Palestinian BDS National Committee
CC: His Excellency, Fander Falconi, Foreign affairs Minister of Ecuador
[i] There is an evident mistake in the report as Uzi Landau is the current minister of Infrastructure and Benjamin Ben Eliezer is the Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor. http://e.elcomercio.pe/101/impresa/pdf/2009/07/29/ECMD290709b7.pdf
[ii] Palestinians are excluded from land rights on 68.2%of all residential areas and 84% of the rural communities in Israel andtransfers the properties stolen from the Palestinian refugees to other (Jewish)owners
[iv] See the database on www.sipri.org
[v] They were praying when a drone fired at the Martyr Ibrahim al-Maqadma Mosque See http://www.pchrgaza.org/files/PressR/English/2008/03-2009.html (Three more died later of their injuries). For more war crimes involving drones, see: www.stopthewall.org/downloads/pdf/Elbit-fc.pdf
[vi] Constitution of Ecuador, Section VIII, chapter 1, Article 416, para. 12.
[vii] Statement of H.E. FatherMiguel D’Escoto Brockmann, President of the United Nations General Assembly, onthe International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinan people, November 242008. http://bdsmovement.net/?q=node/221